Sixty million tourists are expected to visit Hong Kong this year and spend a combined HK$381 billion (US$49.1 billion), according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
Much of the money will come from mainland tourists who accounted for 75 percent of visitors last year.
But what if they were to slow to a trickle?
Their overwhelming number has strained local resources and heightened tensions with Hongkongers who consider some of them unwelcome guests, prompting plans by the government to rein in cross-border visit visas.
In order to achieve sustainable development, the tourism industry must diversify its market to attract a wider variety of visitors.
There are a number of ways to do it.
Lee Kuiwai, an associate professor in economics at the City University of Hong Kong, is recommending more themed tours and international sports events.
Singapore offers a successful example as host of a Formula One Grand Prix race.
This year’s event, scheduled for Friday to Sunday, promises to be another hit; all tickets have been sold before the race event starts.
According to the Singapore Tourism Board, the race is expected to bring in S$100 million (US$79.98 million) in extra tourism income this year, with more visitors staying longer for the event.
By contrast, foreign tourists visit Hong Kong an average of two days because it does not have enough tourist attractions.
A number of enterprising tour operators have been offering special tours.
Walk In Hong Kong, which started last year, takes sightseers off the beaten path to unique places such as cemeteries. Others offer eco tours and cultural adventure.
These tours have been well received by visitors, with most of the events fully booked in advance.
Lee suggests building on Hong Kong’s geographic advantages such as its subtropical climate and a long shoreline which are ideal for competitive yacht races.
Recently, China’s official People’s Daily recommended rural areas such as Sai Kung and Lamma Island to Chinese tourists.
In fact, Hong Kong isn’t lacking in scenic spots.
Country parks dot nearly 40 percent of the city. These parks offer a wide range of modern amenities including toilets, benches, tables, BBQ pits and camping sites.
These can be magnets for visitors from all over the world.
The Hong Kong government can charge admission as is the practice in other cities and use the money to maintain and improve these parks.
The government should also encourage travel companies to design trekking tours and professionalize them by offering complete packages including tour guides.
This kind of activity is booming in places such as Thailand, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand.
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